My propensity to be triggered is a problem. Not the things that arouse the propensity.
I keep thinking that suffering is the problem, but it’s not. The problem is my propensity to react to the things that unfold in a day. I keep thinking that those annoyances are the problem. The car that cuts me off when I am late to Morning Prayer. The 10 day-old pork chop which gave me stomach cramps. The photocopier that jams just when I am on my way to a meeting. (It never jams when I am about to take my lunch hour or when an appointment gets cancelled. It only jams when I am late to a meeting and really, really need the photocopies because they make me look impressive.) The side comment that was meant to hurt, and did. The meeting which did not get me what I wanted. These are all moments of truth. They are all a collection of opportunities to be, as my friend Isaac calls “soft.”
But instead, I meet these moments of discomfort with hardness. And then, I get hooked. I have a propensity to getting hooked by things; and I do not think I am alone in that.
It is my propensity for being annoyed which causes me suffering, and not the actual jammed photocopier or the car-cutter-off-er.
But there is another way. Sure, Jesus said to “consider the lilies of the field.” Which is charming. But when I am having a bad day, I want to napalm that field. Or spray paint the lilies taupe and gun-metal grey.
But He is right, that Jesus! If we could simply rest in the “now,” the present moment, and not react to the things that trigger us into our bad moods or our angry responses or our mumbled swear words or our parking lot diatribes; well, perhaps we would be able to enjoy the peace to which Jesus keeps calling us. And then make more around us.
My problem is not the unfortunate thing that happens to me nor the unfortunate things said of me, nor the inexpressibly stupid things I do and say. My problem is the propensity. The propensity to be annoyed is the problem. Fix that, and the things that happen in a day simply get no traction – like water off a duck’s back. Or a perhaps a peacock’s.
I am not sure exactly what being a Christian should look like in me. I am pretty sure it should not look like a creepy, massive Hallmark-card-smile or a pouty emaciated angel figurine. It’s probably not my clergy shirt or the secret stash of Christian praise music I bought from a late-night commercial or a very, very big Bible. No. I think perhaps being a Christian should look soft. Not weak. But definitely soft.